Chandigarh, June 12
Amid eroded base, credibility crisis and faceless organisation, can the BSP sway Dalit voters in the favour of Shiromani Akali Dal? Experts have their doubts.
As Punjab has the highest percentage of Dalit population among all states, it saw the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) as a new hope in 1990s. The party won nine constituencies in low-voting Assembly elections in 1992. The party had again put up a good show in the 1996 Lok Sabha elections, when it polled around 12 per cent votes in alliance with the SAD.
But after the SAD joined hands with the BJP in 1997, not much options were left for the BSP and since then, it played the role of a spoiler for other parties, especially the Congress. The party had been contesting all 117 constituencies in the state, which would often benefit the SAD. Even doubts were raised about BSP chief Mayawati’s seriousness about the party in Punjab. As a result, the party kept on losing promising leaders to the SAD or Congress.
Finally, AAP gave a major blow to the BSP in the last Assembly elections by sweeping away its cadre as well as the base. As a result, the party came down to 1.5 per cent vote share and it has been 25 years that the party has not sent even a single leader to the Assembly. Experts had started looking at the BSP as another ‘Left party’ in the state.
Experts feel that the SAD-BSP alliance is not going to make much difference as far as electoral politics is concerned as both parties have been dealing with their own crisis.
“The BSP was facing an existential crisis and at the lowest point in the history, the SAD was finding it difficult to survive,” says Prof Jagrup Sekhon, former professor of political science at GNDU, Amritsar.
He said the past practice revealed that the BSP had been acting as a sleeper cell of the BJP. “Whenever there is need, they awake them. However, the local leadership of the party has its own explanations for the past decisions,” he said.
BSP state president Jasvir Singh Garhi said after the SAD formed a pact with the BJP, they were left with no other option but to go solo in the past elections. “We have always longed for an alliance but the situation was never in our favour,” he said.
Dr Pramod Kumar, an expert on electoral politics, looked at the development as “pragmatically” positive. “It sends the right signal as one party represents Dalits, the other upper castes. So, it fades caste fault lines,” he added.
Vote share down to 1.5%
- The BSP’s vote share fell to 1.5% in the last Assembly elections from around 12% in the 1996 LS poll when it was in alliance with SAD
- It has been 25 years that the party has not sent even a single leader to the Assembly
- It had won nine constituencies in the 1992 Assembly polls, but after SAD joined hands with the BJP in 1997, BSP played the role of a spoiler for other parties, especially Congress